Review of Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb

Bimbos of the Death Sun
By Sharyn McCrumb; read by Ruth Ann Phimister
4 Cassettes – 6 Hours /[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Recorded Books
Published: 1999
ISBN: 0788768867
Themes: / Science Fiction Convention / Mystery / Humor / Fandom /

“A quaint airport hotel hosts an SF convention that is positively swarming with sword and sorcery aficionados, unfortunately the guest of honor is found with a bullet through his cold little heart. Its obvious who did it, its author, Sharyn McCrumb”*
-Commander Rick, Prisoners Of Gravity

Appin Dungannon, the guest of honor at RubiCon, a regional science fiction convention has been murdered. He had written a seemingly endless, and highly profitable, series of swords-and-sorcery novels about a Celtic warrior with a magic sword. He had spent every moment at this particular con, and many previous, making a general nuisance of himself and ridiculing his own fans and the costume contest entrants. So its no real wonder that he wound up dead. The only question is ‘who did it?’ With so many suspects how can the murder be solved? After all the police don’t know the terrain, they don’t understand Klingon! Thankfully, Jay Omega, an engineering professor at a local university and author of the lamentably titled “Bimbos of The Death Sun” is up to the task of separating the murderers from the mere nerds.

First published in 1988, the computer technology references, like everyone still using floppy diskettes (!), is the only thing that really dates this funny novel.

Billed as a murder mystery satire, Bimbos of the Death Sun does have those elements. But considering the murder takes place more than half way through the book and the requisite whodunit scenes aren’t the primary focus even after the late murder, I see it more as straight satire of the convention culture that fans of fantasy and science fiction have built for themselves. For those interested, in such a straight mystery with a comedic touch I highly recommend you check out Isaac Asimov’s much underrated Murder At The ABA. Bimbos though, does have a few of the murder mystery necessities – like the very Rex Stoutish ‘I suppose your wondering why I’ve gathered you all here’ scene, but even then it does take place over a game of Dungeons and Dragons. McCrumb, an Edgar award winner, apparently got a strong negative reaction to the novel from what she calls “the sort of person who has a degree in physics and works at McDonalds, but its okay because on weekends he’s a Viking warrior.”* I can kind of see why though, she’s pretty ruthless – exposing the extreme geekitude of many SF conventioneers, but given that she appears to be carrying an outsider’s perspective (McCrumb is mainly known as a mystery author) its surprising just how accurately she’s portrayed the atmosphere of a con. I think she’s a little too familiar with the convention mindset to be entirely in contempt of it. And remember that in 1988 being a nerd wasn’t quite the same thing as being a nerd now. One other minor worry is that for such a short novel, a mere 6 hours (224 pages), the many character perspectives would seem to hamper the mystery elements, and I suppose it would if I were to critique it as a murder mystery alone it would be a concern. A mystery fan alone may have felt cheated, as a fan of both mysteries, science fiction, and its satirization, I didn’t.

Bimbos comes on four cassettes and packaged in the “Collector’s Edition,” an affordably priced, lightweight packaging that’s durable enough for a private collection but not durable enough for a library. A clear plastic sheet protects the printed insert containing the original cover art, which depicts the in-novel described cover art of Jay Omega’s own novel. Such touches are much appreciated by collectors like myself and Recorded Books has always been the standard bearer for outstanding original cover art on audiobooks.

Bimbos is full of jokes and comedic commentaries of fannish behavior, there’s plenty of fun for narrator Ruth Ann Phimister to play with. Her performance, including a funny Scottish accent, was always most appropriate and always in tone with the mood of the text, a lighthearted performance of a lighthearted visit to a fictional SF convention. I truly look forward to her reading of the sequel, entitled Zombies Of The Gene Pool, which is also available from Recorded Books.

* Quotations taken from Prisoners Of Gravity episode on “S.F. Mysteries”.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Noreascon: The 29th World Science Fiction Conventi…

Noreascon: The 29th World Science Fiction Convention Awards Banquet
Produced by William Desmond; Various Speakers
Two 33 1/3 RPM LPs – Approximately 90 minutes [UNABRIDGED EXCERPTS]
Publisher: Nesfa Inc.
Published: 1973 – Out Of Print
Themes: / Science Fiction / Awards / Fandom / Hugo Awards /

A set of two long-playing records of the Awards Banquet at the 1971 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. The Toastmaster for the function was Robert Silverberg. In addition to the speeches by Guest of Honor Clifford D. Simak and Fan Guest of Honor Harry Warner, Jr., there is a eulogy for John Campbell given by Lester del Rey. Other speeches were given by the TAFF delegate (Mario Bosnyak) and the Bob Shaw Fan Fund winner (Bob Shaw). Awards were presented for First Fandom (received by Philinda Hammond for late father, John W. Campbell) and the P.A.T. Terry Award for Humour in SF. The Hugo Awards were presented by Isaac Asimov.

I had to find a working record player to play this set, something more difficult than I expected, but it was worth the wait. Recorded in real time, this is a collection of excerpts from the awards banquet, so there are some slow spots, a little dead air, but the energy and sheer voyeurism more than makes up for this. After all, listening to these LPs is for a science fiction fan what the Oscars are to a movie fan.

Toastmaster Robert Silverberg, who just this year (2004) has been named a “grand master,” sprinkles his 33 year old speeches with jokes, about Nixon, marijuana and other topical to 1971 themes – Silverberg also “roasts” many of his colleagues to his own and to the audience’s obvious delight. But Silverberg isn’t the only speaker. A somber and lamenting Lester Del Rey eulogized John W. Campbell and presented the first Fandom Award. Bob Shaw, specially imported to Boston just for the occasion made a brief speech full of warmth and humour and delightful Irish accent was a real treat! And Clifford D. Simak gave what sounded like a prepared speech – with some unfortunately insecure dentures. Simak’s unadulterated benevolence shone through – in his late 60’s by the time of this recording, he was the most eloquent speaker among all the honourees that night. Simak suggested in his speech that perhaps the “golden age”, wasn’t quite so golden as we all seem to remember and that the current ‘dry spell’ isn’t perhaps quite so dry. He extolled the virtues of the “new wave” and suggests that science fiction is stronger than it ever was, and that the expansion into the softer sciences of economics, ethics, sociology, etc. is actually a good thing. Simak’s conviction and good will brought genuine tears to my eyes and I wasn’t the only one moved. Simak’s speech was interrupted by spontaneous applause. After he’d concluded his speech he was again subject to a rousing and sustained round of applause and Silverberg said as Simak took his seat “He’s a good man, a pretty good writer too, we have a lot of good writers here tonight but he’s a good man”. We’ll miss you Cliff.

On Side 4 the serious handing out the “silver spaceships” began in earnest with Isaac Asimov as the dispenser. Asimov had even more fun with the microphone than did Silverberg, giving us a raunchy limerick and several references to himself as the worlds greatest science fiction author!

Larry Niven makes a brief vocalization too, after having been handed his Hugo for best novel (Ringworld), Niven said “I promised my wife I’d quit smoking right after this convention”. Thankfully Larry is still with us more than a third of a century later and no doubt we have his wife to thank for that.

Sound quality with this 1973 production is only fair, vinyl/needle friction combined with numerous microphone bumps, pops and hisses are only a minor annoyance, most speakers are easily heard, the audience laughs at all the jokes and everyone seems to be having a great time. The line drawing cover art is rudimentary and is taken from the program to the convention (click on the picture to see the expanded fold out cover), the inside of the 2 disc set is illustrated with black and white photos from Noreascon 1971. With only 300 of these record sets ever printed this is a mighty rare collectible, I’ll cherish mine until they invent that time machine these SF authors are always promising – then I can visit the convention myself!

Posted by Jesse Willis